For some families, the holidays are the only time when they see each other. The rest of the year may be plagued by business meetings, school events, extracurricular activities, and other activities that prevent them from getting together. Families finally get a chance to slow down and spend time together during the holidays. This is also a time when family members may start to notice the decline in health of a loved one or spot warning signs of an impending divorce. They may also see the family makeup change with wedding and pregnancy announcements. For these reasons, holidays and estate planning sometimes go hand in hand together. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer from Baxter Legal Services can guide you this holiday season so that you can discuss your estate plan and wishes for the future. Schedule a confidential consultation to learn more by calling (425) 686-0574.
How to Start the Conversation
While there may be no easy way to start talking about estate planning, the following tips can help ease this important conversation.
Pick the Right Time
Be intentional regarding the time to have the estate planning conversation. Ideally, the time should not be in the middle of a celebration like carving the Thanksgiving dinner or opening Christmas gifts because you do not want to change the festive mood. It also should not be when people are drinking alcoholic beverages, and may not act appropriately during the conversation.
Instead, the ideal time for an estate planning conversation is when things are calm and you can talk about this important subject without distractions. Ease into the conversation by letting your loved ones know that you have an important topic you want to discuss ahead of time.
Enter the conversation with all the information you need. If you have recently prepared your estate planning documents, you can bring a copy of them with you. You can also bring other important information you want to share, such as:
- Medical information
- Insurance information
- Emergency contact information
- Access information for records that are stored electronically
Consider writing out a script out beforehand that touches on the information you want to convey, such as who your beneficiaries will be and how you plan to divide your estate. Think about what you want to tell your family and make a list ahead of time so you will not forget anything important.
Anticipate Sensitive Matters
Estate planning can be a difficult subject for some people. It makes them consider their own mortality and values. Loves ones may have different values. Be prepared for challenges, or for the conversation to potentially become uncomfortable and for people to question you about your plans. Try to stay calm and firm in your resolve. Remember this is your estate plan, not theirs. It should reflect your wishes. After you have discussed what you need to, move on to other holiday activities.
What Are the Components of an Estate Plan?
Every estate plan is different, but many people include the following in their estate plans:
Last Will and Testament (will)
A will is a legal document that states what happens to a person’s property after they pass away. Under Washington law, anyone who is 18 or older and of sound mind can make a will. A will may provide information about:
- Who gets a person’s real estate
- Who gets a person’s valuable personal property, such as cars, proceeds in financial accounts, artwork, and collectibles
- Specific items of sentimental value the person wants to give to a particular person
- How to make a charitable contribution from the person’s estate
- How the person’s estate is divided
- Who should care for the person’s minor children and their property
- Who will be responsible for carrying out the wishes described in the estate planning documents
Revocable Living Trust
The Washington State Bar Association describes a revocable living trust as a written agreement in which a person creates a trust and names a trustee to govern the management of the assets contained in the trust during their lifetime and after their death. A revocable living trust can be a powerful estate planning tool because it can help avoid the probate process, which is often expensive and time-consuming. It can also provide instructions on how to plan for long-term care needs so that expensive court proceedings may be avoided. A person also has greater control over the assets contained in a trust than they do in gifts they provide outright to beneficiaries.
A healthcare directive is a document in which you state which types of end-of-life care you want and do not want. You provide this document to your medical providers. You can also ask your local hospital to keep a copy on file for you.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A durable power of attorney for healthcare form designates another person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in case you cannot make them on your own.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document that appoints an agent who will have the legal authority to handle the signor’s financial affairs. The term “durable” means that the agent keeps this power even if the signor later becomes incapacitated. However, that legal power ends at death.
Many people own assets that have a beneficiary designation that transfers the property automatically upon the owner’s death, such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, or retirement accounts. These assets pass according to the beneficiary designation, regardless of what the owner’s will says.
An estate planning lawyer from Baxter Legal Services can explain what should go into your specific estate plan given your unique set of facts and circumstances, along with your wishes.
Questions to Ask and Answer
As part of the conversation, you may need to be prepared for certain questions your loved ones have about your estate plan, such as:
- Who should get what assets?
- How do you plan to divide your assets?
- What do you want to have happen if you become incapacitated?
- Who do you want to make important healthcare decisions for you?
- What medical treatments do you want/not want at the end of life?
- Who will take care of your minor children if you pass away?
- Who should care for your pets if something happens to you?
- Do you want to be buried or cremated?
- Are you an organ donor?
- Where do you plan your estate planning documents?
- Who do you want to carry out your final wishes?
Help for Holidays and Estate Planning from a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Lawyer
If you need help with holidays and estate planning, Baxter Legal Services can help. Learn more by calling us at (425) 686-0574.